Ethics Assisted Suicide White Paper

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White Paper on Ethics Assisted Suicide Assignment

The motivation that drives a person to pursue assisted suicide is an important issue in the debates regarding the ethics, legality, and what appropriate response to requests for assisted suicide should entail. Understanding the motivation is critically important to in order to determine if physician-assisted suicide should be considered a viable alternative for these individuals. The empirical literature has revealed three general categories of previously described explanations that people use to justify their desire to end their lives: (1) the most common reason for a person's desire to engage in assisted suicide include that they are receiving inadequate treatment for pain, pain control or they believe that other distressing symptoms are inadequately controlled and believe that their palliative care is inadequate; (2) psychiatric problems such as depression; and (3) concerns about losses such as loss of function, control, or sense of self. (Block & Billings, 1994; Meier et al., 1998). While most think of assisted suicide as a contemporary issue, it is interesting to note that the earliest American statute openly to outlaw assisted suicide was enacted in 1828 in New York after which many States and Territories modeled similar laws (Weir, 1997). So the issue of assisted suicide is not a new one. In a much-cited survey of more than 10,000 United States physicians it was found that nearly16% of physicians would consider halting life-sustaining therapy if the patient's family demanded a halt to it even if the physician believed that it would be hasty to do so. A little over half of physicians surveyed (about 55%) reported that they would not halt therapy in response to the demands of the family and the remaining physicians reported that it would depend on circumstances. Interestingly, the results also indicated over half (approximately 59%) of physicians agreed that physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in some cases (Kane, 2010). So the issue is not a clear cut issue, even for physicians.

Arguments against assisted suicide

The arguments against assisted suicide fall into several different categories but come as a reaction against arguments for assisted suicide. According to Monero (1995) the basic arguments are:

l. Most medical doctors are not trained to handle what is clearly a psychiatric issue. At one time or another many people have wished that they were dead rather than confront a difficult situation or circumstance. When all physicians are granted the authority to grant a suicide wish we run the risk that we are not recognizing that the real issue is a depression that would remit with treatment. In addition, some cases of depression are resistant to treatment and there should be a clear focus to alleviate depression in these individuals. Instead of treating these patients humanly, assisted suicide is another form of murder. Proponents of this view point out that there are cases of many individuals with significant disabilities have attempted suicide but were saved and now are thankful because they got over what was bothering them, have adjusted, and are content with life.

2. The "slippery slope" argument is often used against legalizing assisted suicide and is potentially a powerful line of reasoning against legalization. We can ethically concede that there are certainly some situations when a sanctioned or otherwise acceptable action should not be untaken because in doing so could result in a course of subsequent actions that are not acceptable. One of these situations is legalizing assisted suicide. The attitudes of society towards the disabled, elderly people, and the devaluation of people in the name what is better for the general good is something that should not be taken lightly. The end result of legalizing assisted suicide could very easily become requiring assisted suicide in all individuals of a certain class or with a certain condition.

3. Gomez (1991) was one of the first to actually ask "How will physician-assisted suicide be regulated?" Gomez investigated the Netherlands' experience with assisted suicide and was not convinced that it could be regulated properly. Related to the slippery slope argument above Gomez questions the standards of regulation and points out that certain groups of patients are likely to be overrepresented as candidates for assisted suicide such as demented patients, vulnerable patients who are expressing a passing fancy, and patients truly incapable of consent or dissent all could become unwilling subjects of the assisted suicide machine. He considers such a condition to be a great injustice to all humanity and the likelihood of poor monitoring and supervision leading to mass injustices of this nature is too great to risk to take.

4. Related to both numbers two and three is utilitarian vs. sacred view of life argument adopted by many religious groups. In effect this is related to the slippery slope argument, but from a religious standpoint. The proponents can quote religious texts or more practical instances. For instance, this argument is quick to point out a secular cultural shift in attitudes toward life or what it means to be human. Examples of extreme secular views of life can be seen in the treatment of people by doctors in Nazi Germany, currently in China regarding new births, and books like Huxley's Brave New World. The proponents of this view rightly call attention to what is it that makes a person of value? Are people only valuable when they contribute to a greater society by working or is there value inherent in being a human? When human life is devalued abuse follows as when in this country's history the U.S. Supreme Court with the Dred Scott decision declared that African-Americans were not people thus permitting slavery and inhumane treatment of certain groups.

5. Assisting in suicide is considered by some physicians to be a violation of the Hippocratic oath and legalizing assisted suicide could lead issues of trust between patients, their families, and physicians. Such a viewpoint asserts that a patient's trust in the physician's devotion to acting in the patient's best interests will be hard to maintain if physicians are also licensed to kill people. This also brings up the question of what about physicians who have religious or personal moral convictions against taking life. Are they going be required by law to prescribe a treatment (assisted suicide) that they are morally opposed to?

6. Finally, a weaker argument is that of the "occasional miracle" where sometimes remarkable recoveries do occur and people recover from intractable conditions. Assisted suicide could foil these occurrences.

Arguments for assisted suicide

Moreno (1995) and Weir (1997) have presented four basic arguments that are commonly used to support the notion of assisted suicide:

l. The so-called "mercy argument" commonly used by those wishing to die, lay persons, and some physicians which proposes that there is often the case that overwhelming pain and prolonged suffering result in an existence that is not worth living. This existence results in a life of indignity and loss of control. It is inhumane to force people to prolong their suffering when the end is death anyway. Assisted suicide returns the control and dignity that people have lost and ends their suffering.

2. The second argument is related to the first. People have a basic right to self-determination; in the case of chronic untreatable conditions patients are empowered when they can decide their fate and not be encumbered by laws, rules, and regulations. This notion of patient empowerment has been growing in health care for many years. As such, proponents of this stance believe that it should be recognized that patients have a right to make their own decisions and not being able to do so violates a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Ethics Assisted Suicide" White Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Ethics Assisted Suicide.  (2011, May 12).  Retrieved August 8, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Ethics Assisted Suicide."  12 May 2011.  Web.  8 August 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Ethics Assisted Suicide."  May 12, 2011.  Accessed August 8, 2020.